Mark Terry

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Copy Edits

June 30, 2009
I'm going over the copyeditor's edits on the manuscript of The Fallen, due out from Oceanview Publishing in April 2010.


I find this exhausting. It's not because I have a terribly cluttered manuscript. I don't. It's pretty clean. But I find I have to really think about some of the edits. Generally they're stylistic--this copyeditor wants serial commas, which I generally don't. The copyeditor doesn't seem to want to capitalize titles, like chief of staff versus Chief of Staff, whereas I generally do. From time to time I just plain disagree and say so.

She's made one or two suggestions for changes in words and sometimes I say, okay, whatever, and other times I say, No, I prefer what I had.

Like most edits, you still have to spend some time trying to figure out what's going on in the head of the editor. That's what's tiring, I guess.

Mark Terry

p.s. for your own post-it note: 

Monday, June 29, 2009

Powder Grace

June 29, 2009
Driving home after picking up my youngest at swim club, I saw a bumper sticker that read: Powder Grace.

Which, frankly, made no sense whatsoever.

Then I realized, by squinting, that it actually read: Ponder Grace.

What a difference a single letter makes.

Not, really, that out of context "Ponder Grace" makes much sense. Youngest Son, at the age of 11, said, "What's that mean?"

To which Leanne said, "Think about grace."

And I said, "It's a religious thing. Grace of God. Unless it refers to pondering something graceful. Or maybe pondering someone named Grace."

As a zen koan, though, I sort of like: Powder Grace.

I suppose if you know Grace, your willingness to powder her may have some variables. I don't know.

Mark Terry

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Yeah, That's What You Think It Is

June 28, 2009
Home, finally. It was a long trip, but pretty good. I do this same conference every year with varying results--I'm the editor of The Journal of the Association of Genetic Technologists. Yes, that photograph was taken by the meeting organizer and my friend, Joyce Miller, from the conference room of the Jacksonville Hyatt Regency Riverfront on Friday night. And yes, as a matter of fact, it IS what you think it is.

Like I said, every year is different.

Mark Terry

Friday, June 26, 2009

Name Dick Cheney's Memoir

June 26, 2009
My old best buddy, Spotted Dick Cheney, is getting paid $2 million for an un-named memoir. Here's a quasi-contest to name it here.

If every book on the planet was mysteriously sent into a black hole, I wouldn't buy this book, even remaindered. Anyway, my suggestion is:

Waterboarding For Dummies.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Kindle on the iPhone?

June 21, 2009
Yes, as you all know, I published Dancing In The Dark on Amazon as an e-book for the Kindle.

What you may or may not know is that I don't own a Kindle. One of the reasons why is that it's expensive. The other is that it doesn't have color. I'm intrigued by the concept, particularly since I get 5 newsletters a month related to healthcare and another 3 or 4 related to other things. Plus 4 or 5 magazines and a newspaper. I like the idea of having them with me wherever I happen to be so I could just boot up and read whatever I need to read without carrying a briefcase filled with reading material. But I'm not at all willing to be shortchanged on color photography for the privilege and Smithsonian and Archaeology and Time have plenty of color. And some of the newsletters have graphs and charts with color.

I'm also a Mac and iPhone and iPod user and I'm hoping Mac will come out with an overgrown iPhone that you could download books to as well as use to browse the Internet and watch downloaded TV and movies on as well as stream shows off, all on a screen the size of a paperback, rather than on one the size of a deck of cards. I'm hoping, anyway.

Which brings me to the iPhone. I've got one of the 2nd generation ones (the 3G just came out). I have some games, a lot of music, my e-mail, an audiobook and a number of TV shows on it. It's not bad. It's an okay phone (the problem may be AT&T's 3G network, but the phone's only OK, not great). But the app store is amazing and although I've got a few games I never play (except the USA Today crossword, which allows me to download each day's puzzle), I've got some apps I use all the time, like the National Weather Service, i.TV, which not only gives me a TV guide, but allows me to check movie times at my local theater. I've also got one that gives me all the fingerings for a bunch of guitar chords.

The most I've paid for an app is $4.99 and the least was for free. And I recently downloaded an app for free. Yes, FREE.

What was it? Kindle for the iPhone. Because the price was right and because I was curious.

Because I thought, hell, who would want to read an entire novel on a screen the size of a deck of cards?

I'm still not sure I would want to, but I was fairly impressed by my ability to. You can get samples of Kindle books for free--like the first 3 chapters of DANCING IN THE DARK--and that's what I did. And I read the first chapter and a half on the iPhone, just to see what it was like.

It was a lot easier than reading other things on the iPhone.

Is it a game-changer?

I doubt it. Would it be if it was on everybody's smartphone or a larger netbook-like version of a Kindle or if my dreamed-about Super iPhone came along?

I still don't know. But it would be pretty cool. Very Star Trek-ish, too, for everybody carrying around a screen the size of a paperback book that you can read books on--and download directly to--as well as music, TV, movies, news, magazines, newspapers, surf the web, games...

Veddy intervesting.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

We Be Tweaking

June 16, 2009
Although the new business venture isn't quite ready to go live, the website is very, very close. For those of you with any interest, the website is:

If any of you know any medical technologists, medical technicians, physicians, histopathologists, etc. Direct them my way.

I hope to go semi-live in a couple weeks with regular lab-oriented content on the main page and have a sample newsletter up by August 1st and get officially going September 1. But in the meantime, the site's almost ready.


Do Men Read?

June 16, 2009
Obviously, I do. My oldest son does. My youngest son is more of a reluctant reader. My brother-in-law, who didn't use to read much, reads all the time. My brother reads a lot.

But do men, in general, read a lot? My guess is, some do, some don't, but not as much as women. No conclusions why. Here's a bit from today's ShelfAwareness:

* Where are all the men? Anderson noted that her stores have not been able to sustain men's book clubs and asked the audience for suggestions. Advice included focusing on historical titles and novels driven by male characters. Fitzgerald suggested a different approach: serve beer. [Editor's note: We'll drink to that.]

To which I have to say, well, that might work, actually. 


Monday, June 15, 2009

The Kindle Publishing Experience

June 15, 2009As promised, I'll talk a bit about my Amazon Kindle publishing story here. As mentioned, I decided to take a novel manuscript that was gathering dust and publish it as an e-book for the Amazon Kindle. The cost to me, in theory, would be $0, but…

I wanted a cover, so first, I put out a request on my blog for someone who might be comfortable with PhotoShop who might be able to work up a professional-looking cover. I was hooked up with Judy Bullard of Jaebee Creations. Her website is: For a fairly modest fee she created a good, professional-looking cover for the book.

I spent a couple days tweaking and going over the manuscript, then I entered the Amazon Kindle page. Go to, at the bottom of the page is a link to Self-Publish with Us. Click on it and there'll be several options. The one you're looking for is Kindle Books. You create an account, then there are three steps. You basically fill out the description of your book, upload the artwork, then upload the manuscript. In theory you can upload the manuscript as a Word Doc, as a PDF or in HTML. (In Word, Save As HTML). They warn you that HTML will have the best results.

So I did that. Then you wait a couple days (they say hours, but for me it was a day or two) and then it's available.

The problem I had was when you Save As HTML, Word can do some really screwy things. And it did. If you downloaded DANCING IN THE DARK, almost all of the quotation marks were 0s and the paragraph indents were all screwed up.

I e-mailed the Kindle publishing help person and was given a referral to their forums section (so much for customer service). Not really helpful for a non-techie such as myself. Finally I asked Natasha Fondren, better known here as SpyScribbler, for her help. She did her magic, reformatting the HTML, I reloaded it and as far as I can tell, we're good. I'll probably readjust the price periodically.

I've sold, to-date, about 6 copies (yeah, we're just breaking down those publishing barriers there, aren't we?). I'll let you know at the end of June and at the end of July what the numbers are.

I recommend you get a good cover. And if you're not terribly techie, hire Natasha to help you.

Mark Terry

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Drawing & Painting

June 13, 2009

I confess, usually if there's something I'm interested in and I can squeeze out the time, I try it. Hence, guitar, writing, karate, weight lifting, etc. But I'm fascinated and envious of people who can draw and paint--particularly pen and ink and pencil sketching, more than painting. For a while I gave myself a task of drawing a sketch every day, figuring it was a way to improve, but it didn't seem to. Probably I should take a class. Anyway, I tripped across this guy on the web. I'd also recommend his Goth Chick drawing and his Jessica Biel painting.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Big Mo

June 11, 2009
You ever build something and feel it taking shape? Feel it gathering momentum?

I know you've probably felt that way about a novel project. It can be like starting to roll a snowball (sorry, for those of you outside snow zones like Michigan, snow is a crystalline form of rain; it comes from the sky and although sort of pretty, can pretty much screw your life up, and it's cold. For those of you who've never experienced snow, well, screw you, you lucky bastards), and it gets bigger and bigger... and hopefully you weren't stupid and tried rolling it on totally level ground or even worse, uphill. Good luck with that. (Feel free to insert writing career metaphor of your choice here).

Over the last few months I've been making plans to form an e-publisher. I talked to a lot of people about my ideas, gathered information, talked myself out of it, back into it, out of it...

And finally I went ahead and formed an LLC and then, seemingly overnight, hired a website designer and had business cards made up...

We're still in the design/implementation stage, but it's taking shape. The website has been a shock, because my designer specializes in small businesses and she's taken my ideas (almost notions) and made them into something professional looking, something that to me is quite dazzling. She did the same thing with the business cards. Not only does she have a good grasp of what I want, she has a much better grasp of what I need. Her questions have forced me to think through the business better.

It's an adventure. It could go nowhere. But I'm also now holding its potential in my hand and that can be fairly stunning.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kindle Stuff

June 10, 2009

Because people have been asking me about how to do the Kindle thing, here are the pages. Tomorrow, if I have time, I'll talk a bit more about my experience to date.

Here's a link to the Kindle info page:

Another link here.

And more.

From Zen Guitar...

June 10, 2009

From today's reading of "Zen Guitar" by Philip Toshio Sudo.

"For long stretches of the path, there will be periods of self-doubt. You may hear others making beautiful music and wonder if you can ever do the same. Rest assured, you can--but you must maintain perspective.

"The Way of Zen Guitar is to play what you are meant to play, not necessarily what you want to play. Understand the difference. Sometimes the two are the same, sometimes they are not. You must reconcile one with the other or you will not make any progress on the path."

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Dancing In The Dark

Dancing In The Dark

Not quite available, but there's the link to Amazon's Kindle Store.

I'm told there are a number of formatting errors in this. For anyone who's bought it already, contact me at For anyone planning to, hold off while I try to get this corrected. Sorry for any inconvenience.--June 10, 2009

by Mark Terry

Coming Soon To A Kindle Near You... again

June 9, 2009
I've been trying to get Blogger to post the cover art for Dancing In The Dark, a novel I'm publishing for the Kindle, but no go.

Anyway, after reading Joe Konrath and Lee Goldberg's comments about uploading (publishing) a digital book to the Amazon Kindle Bookstore, I pondered what manuscripts I had that I thought were good and which wouldn't screw up any future sales. I settled on Dancing In The Dark, a novel I wrote a year or so after The Devil's Pitchfork was published. My agent shopped it around and although everybody liked it, nobody was willing to publish it. (A trend I find with big publishers in my experience. None of the editors say I can't write, the book sucks, or they wish I would go away. They invariably say, Mark Terry's a very good writer and I found this book very engrossing (captivating, entertaining, etc), but it didn't capture my attention the way I wanted it to (or isn't quite strong enough to break out in the current marketplace)." That's the gist of it, anyway. The fact that their own rejection comments have internal inconsistencies just strikes me as being typical of the industry).

The novel is about Joanna Dancing and she is a high-level executive security expert, a bodyguard, if you will. When hired to keep an eye on a scientist, it's only a matter of days before a bunch of heavily-armed foreign nationals try to kidnap the scientist. Joanna steps in and rescues him, then the two of them find themselves on the run from more foreign nationals, various government agencies and a mercenary or two. Basically, if you like the Derek Stillwater thrillers, you'll like Dancing In The Dark.

Now, why?

Well, curiosity. Will this easy digital publishing via Kindle--and really, it is pretty easy--wipe out modern publishing as we know it?

Well, I was skeptical until I did it. It's not available yet, but it should be in a day or so. It doesn't cost anything, the royalty rate is 35%, and I hired a nice cover art for a minimal fee. The whole process sort of gave me pause, because when I look at that question, will this wipe out modern publishing as we know it, my first thought was: no. Now I have to wonder. It's easier than POD was via iUniverse (another experiment I did back in 2002 or so) and I can determine the prices. In this case, I'm selling Dancing In The Dark for $1.49. Yes, that's right. $1.49. Because I want Kindle users to download the damned thing. Then maybe some of them will go buy my other dead-tree-stuff books, including the one coming out next year.

And for the mathematically challenged, 35% of $1.49 is still 52 cents. If by some miracle I sell 1000 of these things, I'll walk away with $520. Keep in mind that my last book advance was $1,000 and you can see where my curiosity is coming from. And I guarantee you, you won't get any of my previous books or future books in trade paperback or hardcover for $1.49, even if they get remaindered.

Further, although iUniverse was an interesting experience (and Catfish Guru holds up, I believe), the books were overpriced and distribution was impossible. Bookstores just aren't interested in dealing with POD or self-published books. Kindle is not only the reader but the distribution model and in that respect it could be a game-changer. This could do the same thing for books that iTunes and digital downloads have and are doing to the music industry. That is, you move back to the old days of a concert performance being what the musician is all about and the sales of the CDs are supported by it, rather than the other way around.

Then again, we'll see.

Do I recommend it?

Well, I don't know. I have one or two other manuscripts I might consider putting up there, especially the follow-up I wrote to Dirty Deeds. I need to carefully read my contracts and talk to my agent before thinking about making The Devil's Pitchfork or The Serpent's Kiss available.

I also have a novel called Hot Money that I still have hopes for as the beginning of a series, either with the new publisher or someone else. I'm not going to screw that up by self-publishing it as a Kindle e-version.

On the other hand, in the case of Dancing In The Dark, I thought, Well, why not? I enjoyed writing it. I think it's a good book. It's not off the rails in terms of the "Mark Terry Brand," such as it is. And, unlike, say, Hot Money, I don't envision writing a follow-up to Dancing In The Dark (unless, of course, I sell thousands of copies, in which case, hmmmm....).

I'll keep you posted.

Mark Terry

Monday, June 08, 2009


May 8, 2009

Coming Soon to A Kindle Near You...

FLAT-FOOTED, Part 14--The Conclusion

June 8, 2009


Detective Rain called her fellow cops and told them to pick up Chad Laud and Steve Laud for questioning. She made a call to an assistant D.A. to discuss picking up Shala Fontaigne, fully aware that that she would arrive with a battalion of lawyers.

Finally she loaded Melanie Potemkin into her own car to make a formal statement. She turned to Biz. “Why don’t you follow me in. Want to watch some interrogations?”

It took a couple hours to get everyone and everything in place. Detective Rain and one of her partners, Detective Michael Barrow, a thick, gruff man with skin the color of charcoal and cropped hair the color of vanilla ice cream, double-teamed Chad Laud, who, as it turned out, was a modestly successful actor. He’d done a little bit of TV, some local theater and a number of TV commercials. Biz thought he was TV handsome, which is to say, thin, tall, good skin, perfect smile, full head of hair, big eyes. Put him in a line-up with a dozen other struggling actors and you wouldn’t know who the hell he was except he wasn’t blond.

Biz watched on a TV monitor from a separate room with the assistant D.A., a vulture-like man with a hook of a nose, thinning hair and stooped shoulders. Biz thought he looked like a character on The Simpsons.

Chad Laud crossed one leg casually over the other, studying the crease in his tan slacks. “Don’t I get a phone call?”

Barrow said, “We just wanna talk. Ask a few questions.”

“About what?”

“Where were you last night?”

Laud plastered on a big smile, but Biz didn’t find it all that convincing. Laud seemed nervous. “Hey, I had a date.”

“What’s her name?” Rain asked.

Laud splayed his hands. “Hey, I don’t kiss and tell.”

“You should start,” Barrow said. “It might make your life a lot easier.”

Laud’s smile faltered. “Er... I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Summer Rain said, “You need a cup of coffee or anything? Water?”

Laud blinked. “What?”

“Can I get you a drink?”

“No, I’m good.”

The D.A. scratched his pointed chin and said, “He’s awfully cool this one. I’m not sure we’re going to tweeze them apart.”

Biz studied the actor, thinking back to everything--what little he knew--about twins and about the case so far. “Hey...”

The D.A. looked at him. “Something?”

“I need to go in there for a minute.” He headed for the door. The D.A. followed.

“Mr. Leightner...”

Biz stopped. The D.A. studied him for a moment. “Don’t screw this up. You want to tell me what you’re going to do?”

“Just think of me as a can opener. I’m hoping to open a crack in the case.”

A moment later Biz was in the interrogation room. Both detectives looked like they wished he were somewhere else. Like, say, Siberia.

Biz smiled at Laud. “Mr. Laud, how are you today?”

“Who are you?”

“Biz Leightner. I’m a private investigator.” Biz reached into his pocket and pulled out his set of keys. He tossed them gently to Laud, who caught them with his left hand. Biz held out his hand. “Are you left handed, Mr. Laud?”

Laud tossed the jangling keys back to Biz. “Yeah, so what?”

Biz smiled. “Good luck to you, Mr. Laud.” He left the room, followed by Summer Rain.

“What the hell was that all about?”

“Oh, let’s go talk to his twin brother.” 

Steve Laud was in another interrogation room, this time accompanied by his attorney, a blonde woman in a two thousand dollar power suit who was so sharp and edgy she looked like she was made out of crystal. Steve Laud, unlike his brother, seemed a little nervous. He wore a blue suit, blue shirt and red tie. It was a nice suit, but it paled in comparison to his attorney’s. He was drinking a cup of coffee from a Styrofoam cup. Holding it in his right hand.

Biz introduced himself. He gestured to the Styrofoam cup. “Enjoying your coffee?”

“It sucks, to be honest with you.”

His attorney raised a quieting hand. “Not a word, Mr. Laud. Even about coffee.”

“Are you right handed?”

The attorney said, “Why do you want to know?”

“He’s drinking his coffee with his right hand.”

Laud looked baffled. His attorney looked suspicious. Summer Rain said, “Answer the question, please.”

The attorney frowned. She looked at the D.A. “Jim, what’s this about?”

The D.A., James Butcher, shrugged. “It’s a basic question, though. I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t want to answer it.”

“I’m right handed. So what?”

His legal eagle shushed him, but it was too late.

Biz thanked them and walked out. “Let’s go take a look at the photographs I took. You got them, Summer?”

She led them to her desk, which held a computer and about a dozen three-ring binders, each one, Biz knew, representing a murder investigation. She dropped in the disk he had burned and brought up the photographs.

Biz tapped the photograph of one of the Lauds catching the car keys thrown to him by Shala Fontaigne. His left hand high. He said, “Not all identical twins are mirror image. I guess about twenty percent are, which means one is left handed and one is right handed. I don’t suppose this is quite enough evidence to put them in jail, but it’s decent evidence that it was Chad Laud who was with Shala Fontaigne at the time her husband was murdered, not his twin brother, Steve.”

Summer Rain and Jim Butcher gave each other a significant look. Butcher said, “I would think you could work with that. Play them against each other.”

Summer leaned down and gave Biz a peck on the cheek. “That’s a down payment, Biz. You’re a genius.”



Biz smiled. It had been a hell of a day. Once Summer could place Chad Laud with Shala Fontaigne, she was able to hammer on the brothers until Chad cracked. It had to be Chad, he supposed, because Steve Laud’s high-octane attorney wouldn’t let him talk. And neither would Shala Fontaigne’s.

Chad Laud was spinning the story to put his brother in the best light--that Shala Fontaigne forced him to confront her husband, that things had gotten out of hand, Del had attacked him, they’d wrestled for the gun, and it had gone of.

Multiple times.

A team of cops had gone around collecting surveillance footage from the security systems of everybody home around the Fontaigne’s Holmby Hills estate, and indeed, there was footage of either Steve or Chad Laud driving down the street near the Fontaigne’s house.

Shala Fontaigne, of course, was claiming she knew nothing about it. Steve Laud, the apparent killer and weakest link, wasn’t being allowed to say anything by his attorney, who unfortunately worked for the same law firm that represented Shala Fontaigne, the big fish with all the money. Biz supposed there was a conflict of interest there somewhere, but he was out of it now. 

It was hard to say where it was going to go, lacking confessions. Still, it looked like the D.A. and the SEC had enough evidence to put Shala Fontaigne in prison for quite some time on charges of fraud and “IPO spinning,” basically manipulating the initial public offering--and trying to frame her husband for it if she got caught. An army of accountants would be tearing the company’s finances to bits. They might be able to tack on conspiracy to murder charges, although in his cynical way Biz thought the D.A. and a federal prosecutor might throw on a conspiracy and murder charge with the hopes of a deal--confessing to the fraud charges in exchange for dropping the murder-related charges.

Chad Laud was probably going to spend some time trying to dodge an accessory to murder charge. Steve Laud might go down for manslaughter, depending on whether Shala Fontaigne’s attorneys continued to defend him once Shala Fontaigne stopped footing the bill.

Ugly, thought Biz. But then, murder always is.

It had been a very long day. Rumproast snuffled, stood up, twirled around and thumped back down on the bed next to Biz.

“For a little dog he takes up a lot of room in bed.” 

Biz glanced over at Summer Rain, lying next to him under the sheet, very naked and very beautiful. “It’s his very large personality.”

She rolled over so she was inches away from, face in shadows, auburn hair partially obscuring her face. “So dogs do take after their owners.”

“Yeah,” he said. “I guess they do. I’ve got a very, ahem, large personality.”

Summer kissed him. “As a matter of fact, you do.”

The End

Friday, June 05, 2009

Anyone handy with PhotoShop?

June 12, 2009

Anybody out there graphically-design minded? I'm thinking of publishing an unpublished novel of mine through the Kindle program and I'd like to cobble together a cover for it. The title is: Dancing In The Dark. Joanna Dancing is a high-level bodyguard. I was thinking something silhouetted like the James Bond logos. Any thoughts?


To-Do Lists

June 12, 2009

My to-do list is interesting, because I know I'll only accomplish a tiny bit of it. But here it is:

1. Sean--8:00 Mtg/flip-flop/luau
2. Ian-guitar-3:00-3:30
3. gym
4. run
5. get CodeMap thing going
6. AP project
7. Pod Mgt art
8. queries
9. JAGT stuff
10. Plague
11. Flatfooted
12. make derm appt

Then I've also got a list of a couple people I need to contact for the Pod Mgt art.
And in case you were wondering--and maybe you weren't--my youngest son has the 5th Grade Luau after school today, which is basically a party for the 5th graders who are going on to middle school next year. So I dropped him off at school (early, because he had a safety patrol meeting) wearing flip-flops, flowered shorts, a Rain Forest Cafe T-shirt, and a lei. He was also carrying two plates of brownies. And supposedly his mother is going to pick up a grass skirt for him, but we'll see how that, er, shakes out.

And I've got #5 taken care of. Yay!

But #6 is the all-consuming top priority.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Han Solo, PI

June 4, 2009
Works for me.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Head Games

June 3, 2009

I'm well into the Blurb Scavenger Hunt for the upcoming novel, The Fallen (due out April 2010 from Oceanview Publishing). I requested four or five and yesterday I got my second. I won't tell who it was from, but it was a well-known author of a well-known book. It's a dazzlingly great blurb, as is the other blurb I received to-date.


Said author sent a lengthy paragraph detailing all the things he didn't like about my book and my writing as well.

I'm not sure I disagree with any of it. The problem, of course, is that I rather easily take into consideration the criticisms and tend to ignore the praise.

And I gotta tell you, this is playing with my head. I mean, really, don't we all--at some level--want a seasoned, successful pro to look at our work and give us a goddamned honest opinion of it, warts and all?

Or so we tell ourselves. Maybe all we really want is a "yep, it's great, good job."

Was anything he told me really useful? Yes. Some of it was not, not exactly, and some of it was from a point of view of someone who really prefers different types of books than the ones I'm currently writing.

But man... this sort of thing can really screw you up.

Mark Terry

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


June 2, 2009


Outside a three-story condominium complex in Pasadena, sitting in Biz’s Mustang, Detective Summer Rain said, “By rights I should have you arrested.”

“Ah, you just want me in handcuffs.”

“And gagged and rolling around in a car trunk on your way out of town.”

“Wow, you are kinky.”

She glared at him. “Okay, I buy your theory. And here I am. What do you want to do?”

Biz said, “I get the feeling you’ll be really good at playing Bad Cop.”

“Bad Cop-No Cop. You’re going to play the Good Cop, Mr. I’m-Not-ACop?”

“I’ve got the charm and good looks. You’ve got the badge. Ready?”

Detective Rain sighed. “Let’s do it.” They climbed out of the ‘stang and approached the door to the condo unit in question. It was a nice building, done in California style, quasi-stucco, vaguely Mediterranean, vaguely Mission, fairly upscale. Biz knocked on the door. A moment later Melanie Potemkin answered. “What are you doing here? How do you know where I live? Who’s this?”

“Invite us in,” Biz said. “Please. We need to talk.”

Melanie’s eyes grew round with apprehension. “What is this? What did you do? I trusted you!”

Biz pushed past Melanie and into the condo, which was quite large by L.A. standards. The carpeting was thick and beige, the furniture expensive, the view out the balcony would have shown mountains if the smog weren’t obscuring them. “Hey! What are you doing? What’s... ahhhh.”

Biz sat down in a lounge chair. He didn’t trust the poofy couch not to swallow him up. It was bad enough being four-foot-four without disappearing into the cushions. He gestured to the couch. “Have a seat, Melanie. We need to talk.”

Summer closed the door behind her and pushed a hand gently against Melanie’s back, gently but firmly moving her into the living room. Biz thought Summer was doing a nice job of seeming menacing. Maybe it was the height and the serious expression. Maybe it came naturally.

Melanie sat. Summer sat on the other end of the couch from her. Melanie looked at her. “Who are you?”

Summer held out her badge.

Melanie wailed. “You promised! You promised you’d keep me out of this.”

“That was before I figured out that you liked to me. That was before I figured out you’ve been jerking me around the whole time.”

“What?” Melanie had a dramatic hand to her heart, but she was a crappy actress and didn’t pull it off. “I never lied to you.”

“Oh, please! Let me guess. The first time I approached you you went and reported it directly to Shala Fontaigne. And she started feeding you information to feed to me. What she was doing. Where she was going. Everything. Right?”

“I-- I--”

Biz thought, Nailed that one. Too bad it made him feel like a total sucker.

Detective Rain said, “You’re an accessory to murder, Ms. Potemkin. You had better cooperate with us.”

“What?! I’m... accessory to murder? What are you talking about? What murder?”

Rain said, “Del Fontaigne. You helped Shala Fontaigne set up her husband’s murder. You forged e-mails between Del Fontaigne and Sid Davenport.”

“I ... I didn’t!” But her hands were clenched in her lap, the knuckles white, and she wouldn’t look at them. She was a terrible liar.

Biz didn’t have to do a thing. Summer Rain moved in like a shark smelling blood in the water. Within ten minutes Melanie Potemkin had confirmed that she had been feeding information to Biz on orders of Shala Fontaigne. That Shala Fontaigne had made her set up a fake e-mail account for Sid Davenport and fed the IPO hints and plots through them.

Biz said, “So last night, Shala Fontaigne made sure that you told me about her and Steven Laud’s planned liaison at the Malibu beach house, guaranteeing that I’d have them under surveillance.”

Melanie nodded. “But ... but ... I’m not sure if that was actually Steve Laud she was with.”

Biz and Summer Rain shared a confused look. Biz, who had the man’s photographs, said, “Who was he then?”

Melanie sniffed, rubbing her hands. “It may have been Chad Laud. Steve’s twin brother.”

To be continued...

Monday, June 01, 2009


June 1, 2009


There were a dozen things he could do and maybe half a dozen things he should do, but Biz decided to return to the office. Mom was there at her desk, Rumproast snoozing on his bed. Rumproast looked up, panted, eyes bulging, little butt waggling, saying “Howdy.” Biz picked up the dog and scratched between her ears. She gurgled at him. 

Mom said, “You ever thought of getting a bigger dog?”

“You’re hurting her feelings.”

“She’s a sweetie, true. But she’s a midget. I could fit her in my purse.”

Biz sighed. “I’m envisioning me walking a Great Dane, Mom. How’s that image work for you?”

“It amuses me.”

“You’re a cruel woman.”

“I’m your mother and I love you.”

“Uh-huh. I’ve got one more thing I need you to do, or at least try to do.”

“Is it legal?”

“That’s up to you. You’re the lawyer. My source inside ShalaVU is an IT manager named Melanie Potemkin. Can you run a fast background check on her?”

“Piece of cake. What’s illegal about that?”

“I want you to dig a bit more on her.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Play connect the dots. When you’re done with Melanie, come on in. We need to talk.”

Biz went into his office, bringing Rumproast with him. He was inclined to lay down to think, but on two hours of sleep he was pretty sure he’d be sound asleep in seconds. “I decline to recline,” he said to Rumproast, who woofed softly.

He set Rumproast down and sat in his chair. Taking out a piece of blank printer paper, he began sketching a crude flowchart with Del Fontaigne in the middle. He put Shala Fontaigne in a box, Biz himself in a circle, Melanie Potempkin in a square, Sid Davenport in a box, and so on, until he had all of the people he had been dealing with on the piece of paper. Then he started making connections, drawing lines and looking at how they interacted. On another piece of paper he created a timeline.

Then Biz went online and searched for rumors about a possible ShalaVU IPO. As expected, there were plenty of rumors, but nothing concrete. Except... 

Scrawling on yet a third piece of paper, Biz made a timeline of the rumors and the various sources. Finally he located what he thought was the first rumor, on a gossipy financial guru’s blog called Diehlbreaker. The guru’s name was Walter Diehl.

Shoe Fetishists Unite! Diehlbreaker has heard through the grapevine that

ShalaVU’s head honcho, the delectable Shala Fontaigne, is goin’ global 

and needs to build some cash to do so. Sounds like an IPO’s in the works, 

folks! If ShalaVU’s rocketing revenue growth is any indication, Jimmy Choo,

Prada and Miu Miu are going to be saying Yoo-hoo to ShalaVU.

The entry was dated two months ago. It took him a few minutes to hunt down a phone number for Walter Diehl, but he finally got through to the guy in San Diego. Mom came into the office while he was on the phone and he held up a finger to indicate he’d be available in a minute.

“Hello, Mr. Diehl?” Biz introduced himself and explained what he wanted. “I know you might not want to give me the source of the rumor...”

“What? You’ve got some gossip?” came the slightly manic voice of Walter Diehl. “Look, I might be able to bargain with you. That IPO could really be in danger now that Del’s been murdered. Did Shala do it? Do you think she did? God, my blog hits will go through the roof.”

“I’ll make a deal with you then. As soon as I know which way the wind’s blowing, I’ll give you a call. You’ll be at least a couple hours ahead of the LA Times and the Wall Street Journal.”

“I love you, man. I really do. The tip came straight from Shala Fontaigne.”

Biz hung up the phone and looked at Mom. “So, tell me about Melanie Potemkin.”

To be continued...